Cat Trees… Is Carpet The Only Answer?

Cat Trees...  Is carpet the only answer?

Have a decrepit cat tree in need of repairs? Questioning what materials to use when making your own cat tree? Or perhaps you want to know what options you have other than… well, the usual carpet covered cat furniture you see everywhere! Well, you’ve ended up in the right place.

There’s not really a wrong answer, it all depends on your specific needs! So keep those in mind as we delve into these topics. You’ll know exactly what you need in no time.

Here we go!

Table of Contents

Basic Cat Tree Repairs

Let’s start with a how to make simple repairs!

If you are looking at the well-loved, thoroughly used cat tree in your home and wondering if you can fix it rather than just chuck it… Generally, yes, if you want to put in the effort! It doesn’t take too much to repair the most common things that break down over time with use.

Here’s the easiest repair you can do.

Cleaning The Carpet

Cleaning the carpet on your cat tree is a the easiest first step to cleaning up any cat tree.

Okay, the first thing you can do to freshen up a cat tree is spot clean the carpet! It’s a simple thing but can make a lot of difference. It’s time to get rid of any stains and spots, clean off all the cat hair, and see what you are left with.

An easy hack to getting rid of cat hair from carpet (or any fuzzy surface) is to get some disposable latex gloves. Put them on and run your hands all along the surface of your cat tree. It’ll grab the hair and you can just chuck it right in the trash.

You might need to go over it and wipe it down with the gloves a time or two, but, it’ll do the trick.

Using the wand attachments on your vacuum is another way you can work to get rid of the cat hair on your tree.

If you have staining and spots on your carpeted cat tree, you’ll need to be a little more aggressive. But, some spot treatment or a little green machine from Bissell will clean it up in no time.

Feel free to skip this section if this is already a part of your routine or you’ve done it already. It seems super obvious, but it’s easy to forget to do.

Scratching Post Repair

Rewrapping sisal scratching posts is the next easiest thing to do.  Repairing them is not only cost effective, but will keep your cats favorite cat furniture alive for longer.

The second easiest thing to take care of when your cat tree needs a bit of help. Even the cheapest of cat towers can have it’s life prolonged if you take a bit of time to rewrap the scratching posts when they unravel!

It’s fairly inexpensive AND doesn’t take long.

So, how do you do it? Here’s a simple walkthrough from Cats and Pats!

It’s easy enough to follow and really shows you don’t need a ton of high tech or pricey tools to fix this problem. What you’ll need is:

  • Sisal rope
  • Hot glue
    • Or Mod Podge
  • Box Cutter (or similar tool for cutting)
  • Staple gun (optional)

Step one is to remove the original sisal! Take your knife and carefully cut it down and pull it off. Now, how easy this will depend on the cat tree itself. Some are simply glued or stapled at the top and then wrapped around the pillar, so all you’ll have to do is unwind it.

But, if it’s been glued along the ENTIRE length (as it ideally will be), to ensure it doesn’t unravel when your cat uses it, you’ll have a little more work to do.

Don’t worry, just keep cutting down the center and make sure you’ve gotten all the way through the rope, then peel it away and throw the old sisal out.

Rewrapping a sisal scratching post isn't that hard.  You can see here that the first step is to remove the old sisal.

You don’t HAVE to do this to the entire post if not all the sisal has been clawed half to death. If the sisal has been glued down, you can just peel away the used part and rewrap only THAT section.

Speaking of rewrapping, we’re already to that part.

Rewrapping your cat tree just involves a bit of hot glue or mod podge and some sisal rope.

Take your sisal, and if you have a staple gun this is where it comes in handy… You take the end of your sisal and staple it to the top of the section you are rewrapping.

If you don’t have a staple gun, use your hot glue gun to attach the end to the top of the area you are rewrapping and let that get nice and cemented in place before you continue.

Now, you are going to take the sisal and start wrapping! Lay down hot glue (or mod podge) as you go, making sure to keep the sisal wrapped tight and touching each prior loop you’ve made.

Do this all the way down.

Once you get to the bottom, cut the sisal and either hot glue or staple it in place. There you have it, a repaired scratching post!

How To Re Carpet A Cat Tree

If you are wanting to upcycle your old cat tree and give it a new life through DIY project heaven… Well, then, let’s get started! I highly encourage you to check this video out to see how someone new to the process has done this. And even get an idea for how to do it and make it look like a custom piece of cat furniture.

And here is a great video covering both how an expert makes a cat tree, but also how they carpet it. It’s an excellent tutorial and it’ll be useful to be able to SEE the process before doing it.

And if the idea of making a cat tree from scratch really appeals to you but you want a design other than the one in the video above, you can learn how to do that and more here.

But if that all seems like more of a DIY than you want to take on, and you don’t want to deal with carpet anymore, the good news is you have other options available now. There are a plethora of solid wood cat trees that look like they came from a furniture catalog.

There are also other materials to consider (which we’ll explore soon)! I’ve even seen one covered in durable, high quality felt. Go figure.

Okay, so you decided to follow this how-to and reupholster with carpet, now let’s talk about…

Types Of Carpet To Look For

What typos of carpet are best when thinking about reupholstering your cat tree?

I’m not going to get into the technicalities of carpet in this article, because there are considerably more of them than I think most of you will care about, and certainly more than your cat will care about!

What really matters when we are looking at the carpet for your cat tree is… Density and length of the fibers. If you are going to carpet your cat furniture, you want the thick plush stuff. Cat’s like to feel comfy, cozy and most importantly warm and that will retain the most heat.

You are likely going to want to look into nylon carpet, with the name “cut pile”. Basically it’s your regular garden variety carpet with fibers that stick straight up rather than coming up out of the underside of the carpet and then back down into it in a loop. That would be “loop pile”. What great names, right?

Plush or Velvet cut pile carpet is going to be perfect for when you want that super soft, super thick luxurious feel, and the comfiest option for your cat. However, shag is also great for when you want that retro 70’s feel.

Where Do I Get Carpet?

What you are likely going to be looking for is carpet remnants. You don’t need to buy in the bulk quantities a carpet store is usually selling in, because… Well, it’s a cat tree. Not a room.

Most carpet stores are going to be happy to sell off the remnants from previous jobs, and will have a wide variety to choose from. You’ll get fairly good prices on these remnants as well!

Anyplace that sells carpet will likely have these, your local Home Depot, Lowes, or specialty carpet store will have you covered, so give them a call and they can let you know if they’ll sell you the remnants and give you a price estimate.

Is It Worth It?

While reupholstering your cat tree it isn’t the most difficult job in the world, it’s nowhere near the simple fix that rewrapping a scratching post in sisal is, or spot cleaning.

Depending on how much you invested and the quality of the supporting material underneath (is it solid wood or what’s essentially high-quality cardboard), you might be better off getting a new piece of cat furniture altogether.

You can certainly extend the life of even the shoddiest cat tree by doing any or all of the above, but sooner or later you’ll have to replace it, so keep that in mind when deciding how much to invest in extending the life of this cat tree.

How much longer do you think it’ll actually hold out?

If you want a really high quality carpeted cat tree that doesn’t have any of that cardboard that might not last you too long, I recommend checking these out.

If it’s a solid cat tree made from real wood, I’d say it more depends on how much of a DIY person you are. A cat tree made from a wooden base is going to last you pretty much as long as you want it to, if you are down to reupholster, clean and rewrap it, it’s gonna stick around.

So if you are feeling crafty and your cat just LOVES this tree, it can definitely be worth it and less wasteful in the long term.

Are There Options Other Than Carpet?

What can I use other than carpet for my cat tree?  Can I use fabric for my cat tree?  Turns out, there are many options.

Yes! There are tons of other options for you to consider.

Some alternatives to carpet will cost more than others. Some may be downright pricey. And others will let you feel good about upcycling! It just depends on your wants, needs and budget.

If you are reupholstering your cat tree, don’t like carpet and price is no issue, head over to your local fabric store and look for sturdy fabrics like cotton duck and upholstery fabrics. Some batting underneath would make for a softer surface and better purchase for claws.

Your local thrift store or Goodwill may have just what you need to cover your cat tree. Garage sales and flea markets are also a good place to source cat tree materials. You never know what you’ll find!

At these kinds of places look for cheap jeans, old blankets or quilts. Drapes can work wonders on a cat tree if they are still in decent shape because a threadbare spot or some sun damage won’t matter to the cats. Also, you’ll be cutting them up so you can just cut out the bad spots.

Don’t give up if you don’t find what you are looking for on your first trip or the first shop you walk into. As in most areas of life, persistence pays off. Building your own cat tree is no different. And if you are thrifting for your cat tree fabric, patience is key because you never know what you’ll find when shopping there once a week or so!

Here are some alternatives to carpet to consider:

  • Denim
  • Old quilts
  • Blankets
  • Sweaters
  • Sweatshirts and pants
  • Fabric from your stash
  • Cotton duck
  • Burlap
  • Sisal, wrap the entire cat tree?
  • Upholstery fabric
  • Drapes or curtains

What’s The Best Material For A Cat Tree?

I would say this depends heavily on you and your feline friend’s specific lifestyle. Some things to consider before deciding how to refurbish your cat tree are…

  • The particular about the look of your home
  • Is your cat is an aggressive romper, scratcher or generally a little gremlin covered in fuzz.
  • Are your cats kinda lazy and you just want to give them a space of their own that they can use to get away from the kids and dog that encourages a bit of motion in the process?
  • Do you have time to clean your cat tree regularly? Or do you want something more low maintenance?

Once you’ve had a chance to sit and think about how your cat (and you) will use the cat tree, now we can get into what the best materials to use for it are.

Carpet can be used on your cat tree, like this.

1. Carpet

Carpet is used for a reason. It’s a readily available durable material that can be scratched, laid on and manipulated around just about any shape.

The downsides are that it DOES eventually get worn down if you have an avid scratcher. It will stain and you will need to spot clean it. It’s also not the most aesthetic by most standards, so if your décor is important to you, there aren’t a lot of carpet options that are likely to make you happy.

Upholstery fabric can be use on your cat tree.

2. Upholstery Fabric

This is a durable fabric designed for couches, drapes and other furniture that will come in a wide variety of patterns and colors. If you want to cover your cat tree in something and have a very specific look in mind, this is a cool option.

It’s not as durable as carpet, so if you’re cat is really young or just a really rambunctious little tyrant, you might want to opt for carpet (or a solid wood cat tree, but we’re getting to that).

The downsides to upholstery fabric is that it’s likely going to be a bit more pricy and it will definitely need to be cleaned from time to time with frequent pet use. (If you really love this option, keep in mind you can shop for fabric remnants just the same way you can shop for carpet remnants.)

Plush fabric is a good option for cats who want cozy places to snuggle.

3. Plush Fabric

This is a great material for the snuggle bugs in your life. If you have a cat who just wants to hang out, nestle in and be cozy, plush fabric is a great way to make them feel at home.

It comes in an assortment of colors, so you can really get whatever color or pattern you like the best.

The downsides here are … well, it’s not going to be the most durable option. It’ll survive awhile, but it might need to be replaced sooner than some of the other options if your cat likes to romp, that said it’s not going to be as hard to manipulate as carpet, so replacing it won’t be hard.

Solid wood cat trees are an excellent way to bypass the question altogether.

4. Nothing! Or rather, solid wood.

Last but not least, if you don’t want to deal with the hassle, a solid wood cat tree will negate all of this stuff. It doesn’t really get easier to clean than this, a damp cloth is all you’ll need.

Most solid wood cat trees have some sort of cushion or grippy fabric of some kind on the platforms so you don’t have to worry about your cats having trouble or sliding off. But, this comes with the added benefit of… well, the cushions are more often than not removable, replaceable and machine washable.

And there are tons of modern, classic and just all-around lovely pieces that can fit right in with the furniture in your home. Because it is furniture, just cat furniture.

I realize this might mean buying a new cat tree, but it’s an option to consider when thinking about materials and what will fit your life.

Carpet Cat Tree vs Fabric Cat Tree

Okay, so you’ve looked at and read about all the best options but you are torn between carpet and fabric. What really are the ideal materials here? What are the real pros and cons here? The main differences?

Well, when it comes down two it there are two things that really set these two materials apart… Durability and options.

Durability is pretty self explanatory: how long will it last before I have to redo it again?


Carpet is the clear winner on the durability front. So long as the carpet is even halfway good quality, it’s going to hang in there and really put up a fight against those kitty claws. Even when it’s starting to fray, it’ll hang in there, and then it’ll hang in there a little longer.

It can be spot cleaned the same way you’d spot clean the carpet on your floor. It’s cushy enough that cats enjoy lounging on it without extra cushion in most cases, and it retains heat which cats really enjoy.

However, you aren’t going to have as many customization options. Which brings us to the second thing that sets it apart.

Unless you plan on buying multiple different colors of carpet remnants, doing fancy cut-outs like in the video above, and making checkerboards out of it… You are going to have a pretty basic cat tree.

Now there’s nothing wrong with that, but, you should be aware!


Fabric on the other hand, has a lower durability. Even strong upholstery fabric isn’t going to compare to carpet, though it’ll fare better than your fleeces, plush faux furs or generic linens.

It’ll need to be spot cleaned similarly to carpet, and if you’ve ever cleaned a spill on your couch you’ll have a good idea of how to deal with fabric on your cat tree. I wouldn’t say it’ll be more or less resilient to stains and spillage than carpet, I think they are about equal.

It’s not going to keep your cat as warm as carpet will when they go and hide in a cubby or lounge on top. And it doesn’t really provide a ton of natural cushion unless you go for a thick faux fur fabric.

All that said, you WILL have a ton more options for customization, from the sheer number in types of fabric to all the colors, patterns and textures you can get. So, it’s creative heaven for a DIY dream cat house.

Cat Trees Without Carpet

I feel like I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk a little more about this kind of cat tree, if you want to avoid the hassle of reupholstering/upcycling your old cat tree. A cat tree without carpet can be a wonderful, long term choice for you and your cats.

They are easy to clean, often look like a piece of furniture rather than sticking out like like… well, like a cat tree. They are also durable, the whole system almost never needs to be replaced or redone if you get a quality one.

The only things that’ll need replacing are scratch pads or sisal posts! And companies who make this furniture often have easy replacements for any scratch post or pad they have on the tree.

If you want to see what I mean or learn more, you can read more here.

I hope this answered all your questions about reupholstering your cat tree. From simple repairs to what kind of materials are best! While there is no “one answer fits all”, that just means that what you do pick will be perfectly suited to you and your cats needs.

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